7 Tips for Saving Money on Museum Admissions
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
We love visiting our local Richmond museums & gardens, and we love exploring new museums & aquariums around Virginia - they add fun experiences and learning opportunities to every day activities, day trips & vacations. But, all of those admission tickets can add up quickly for a family, especially when your little ones no longer receive free admission (2 and under are typically free).
Don't worry, though, I've got 7 ways to save money when visiting Richmond area museums and gardens... plus ways you can enjoy new museums while you're out of town!
Here are 7 ways to save money when visiting museums with kids:
1. Check for museums and gardens with free admission. In Richmond, we have a few museums that offer free admission for all guests at all times: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Holocaust Museum, and Maymont farm, gardens and mansion.
Maymont is one of our go-to spots to explore because it has animals interactions in the Children's Farm, stroller friendly paths throughout (the hills are a work out!), and beautiful gardens to walk through. It's such a big park that you won't be able to explore the entire space with little kids in one visit.
The VMFA's sculpture garden is one of our favorite places to picnic in Richmond. It has large green spaces with trees that provide some shade, a hill that is perfect for running up and rolling down, water features and so many secret spaces to explore.
In Washington D.C., all of the Smithsonian museums and zoos are free to visit, but some currently require timed-entry tickets . Add these places to your day tip or weekend getaway bucket list: The National Zoo (reservations required), The United States Botanical Garden, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (free-timed entry tickets required), and National Museum of Natural History.
2. Check the Museums for All participants. Museums for All is a national program that encourages everyone to visit museums and gardens. If you are receiving food assistance, you can access reduced or free admission to a lot of museums, zoos and gardens.
The Children's Museum of Richmond: All guests who present their SNAP EBT card, EBT App, or WIC card will receive $2 admission for up to 6 people. If you would like to purchase your ticket online, use code "MFA" and bring your card to the check in desk.
This museum also offers Scholarship Family Memberships at both the downtown location and the Chesterfield location. This membership is available to families with a household income of $35,000 or less per year at the downtown location, and to families with a household income of $40,000 or less per year at the Chesterfield location.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: All guests who present their SNAP, WIC EBT card, or the Fresh EBT app will receive $1 admission for adults & free admission for up to 6 youth (17 years old and younger). There is also a membership option for under $10. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Science Museum of Virginia: All guests who present their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card at the admissions desk can receive a membership for the reduced rate of $20. This family deal is for 2 adults and all children under 18 in the household.
3. Purchase a membership to your favorite museum, garden, zoo or aquarium. I usually determine if it is worth it for us to purchase a membership by calculating how many times we'd have to visit annually for us to break even. With most Richmond area museums, you need to visit 2 or 3 times to make that membership worth it for your family.
Most of Richmond area membership also have an indoor space to enjoy, making it a good investment for rainy days, cold days or summer days!
The Children's Museum of Richmond: It costs a family of 4 $36 per visit. Adult tickets are $9, children's tickets are $9, and children under 12 months are free.
Annual family memberships cost $149, and this includes 2 legal guardians and up to 6 children in the same household. Members also get access to the ACM Reciprocal Membership program. This program allows CMoR members to visit partnering museum for a reduced admission cost.
This membership is worth it if your family plans on visiting 5 or more times a year. Since this museum has a large indoor space, and a recently updated outdoor space and splash pad, this is a great membership for families with children ages 0-8.
Maymont: It costs a family of 4 about $28. Adult tickets are $8, children's tickets are $6 (ages 3-12), and children 2 and under receive free admission to the nature center.
Annual family memberships cost $60 for 2 adults and 6 children under 18 years old. While visiting the outdoor park and gardens is free, a membership includes access to Maymont's Nature Center, discounted admission to early childhood classes & programs, and a discounted ticket for special events like Garden Glow.
This membership is worth it if you plan on visiting 3 or more times. Plus the childhood classes and camps, like Toddler Time, are fantastic!
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: It costs a family of 4 $50 a visit. Adult tickets are $17, children's tickets are $8 (ages 17 to 3), and children under 3 are free.
Annual family memberships cost $135 for a family of 2 adults and up to 6 children under 18. This membership includes 2 free guest passes and access to Garden Fest for free (specified dates each year). Members can attend Flowers after 5 (a summer concert series) without an additional ticket cost, and they also get a discount on summer camps and classes, and they also get library borrowing privileges.
This membership is worth it if you plan on visiting the garden 3 or more times, and if you'd like to visit the GardenFest event for free.
The Science Museum of Virginia : The Supernova membership costs $150, and that includes access to all special exhibits, 4 Dome Theater passes, 4 guests passes, and ASTC Travel Passport Program reciprocity.
It costs a family of 4 around $52 a visit. Adult tickets cost $16, youth tickets cost $13.50 (ages 6-12), preschool tickets cost $10 (ages 3-5), and children 2 and under area free. The membership is worth it if you plan on visiting 4 or more times in a year.
4. Use your museum membership to visit other museums. Our local RVA museums, gardens and zoos participate in reciprocal admission programs, so that RVA members can enjoy new spaces all over the world for free or with discounts.
The Children's Museum of Richmond is part of the ACM Reciprocal Network, so members can visit 200 museums & receive 50% off admission. There are 10 participating museums in VA & 9 in NC .
The Science Museum of Virginia is part of the ASTC Passport Program. Members can visit participating science centers & museums that are 90 miles from the home membership location. With your membership, you can visit Alabama's US Space & Rocket Center for a discounted rate (1 adult & 2 kids for free). And you can visit Nauticus in Norfolk, The Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth, and The Museum of Life and Science in Durham for FREE!
*Heads up: While museums like The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News are a part of this program, Science Museum of Virginia members cannot use their memberships at any location that is closer than "90 miles as the crow flies." Call the museum before you visit to make sure!
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is part of the American Horticultural Society, so members can visit 345+ gardens with special discounts. There’s 11 participating locations in Virginia , 14 in North Carolina & 7 in DC/Maryland. With your Lewis Ginter membership, you can visit Norfolk Botanical Garden for FREE!
*To use these benefits you must have your membership card & picture ID.
5. Check the museum's website for free or reduced admission days and other deals. Most museums offer discounts throughout the year, including discounts for educators, active duty military & veterans, and first responders.
The Children's Museum of Richmond offers free admission to Chesterfield County residents at it's Chesterfield location once of year. It also offers discounts to seniors and Military.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden offers free admission to everyone on July 4 and on Labor Day. They also offer a free week in the winter after Garden Fest, and there are two weeks of half-priced admission around mid-January.
The Smithsonian Magazine also hosts Museum Day each year, and this year's event is on Saturday, September 17. Participating museums and cultural institutions provide free admission for 2 adults per household. Check the museum's website for details on children's tickets. Usually, children 2 and under always receive free admission, unless it is a "children's museum." Then it's children under 1 year old.
6. If you have a Bank of America, Merrill or Bank of America Private Bank (US Trust) credit or debit card, you have access to the Museums on Us program. Bank of America cardholders can receive free admission to over 225 museums and cultural institutions on the first full weekend of each month. The free museum days for 2022 are July 2 & 3, August 6 & 7, September 3 & 4, October 1 & 2, November 5 & 6, and December 3 & 4.
The Children's Museum of Richmond Downtown participates in this program.
*This perk is only good for cardholders. You need to bring your active card and your ID. If you bring guests, they will need their own card or they will have to pay admission costs.
*These can change at anytime. Please call the museum in advance to confirm participation.
7. Request and gift memberships to your family.
Our family members team up to purchase memberships for each household. We've been fortunate to have both Science Museum membership and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden membership given to us as gifts each year.
Here is a comprehensive guide to experience gifts for Richmond area families.
Locations with indoor facilities: A membership or gift card to one of these locations would allow you to drop in to play anytime without paying at each visit.
The Children's Museum of Richmond: With locations in the city and Chesterfield, this museum has been a favorite of families in Richmond since 1981. I’ve been visiting The Children's Museum since I was little, so it’s such a special experience to bring my children here. It’s geared towards children 0-8, and there are exhibits for interactive & imaginative play + learning & creating. My children’s current favorite exhibits are the trains, apple tree, the water play & the carousel
Membership cost: family memberships start at $149
Defy Trampoline Parks: With two Richmond locations , this extreme air sport park has 11,000 square feet of connected trampolines. Defy Richmond has a launching deck, angled trampolines, a dodgeball arena, agility course + foam pit.
Membership costs: individual memberships start at $20.99 per month
*Check here for my review, and check here for my review of Short Pump.
Keystone Truck & Tractor Museum: Located in Colonial Heights, this truck & tractor museum is so much fun for tractor lovers & history buffs. There are over 200 trucks & tractors on display, a toy shop & a restaurant. The museum also hosts birthday & special events.
Membership costs: individual memberships start at $30. Children 5 years old and younger are always free.
*Check here for my review.
Maymont's Nature Center: The Robins Nature Center is an indoor exhibit at Maymont Park that showcases the animals & plants of the James River and Chesapeake Bay. You can learn and explore the ecology of the James River through play, aquariums & interactive animation. This 29,000 square foot attraction also has bathrooms including a family restroom, a sitting area, a gift shop & beautiful views of the park.
Membership costs: family memberships start at $60
*Check here for my review.
The Science Museum of Virginia: We love visiting The Science Museum. There are four floors of interactive exhibits on the massive 33 acre property! It has plenty of space to move around, and it's fun with a group of all ages. Our favorite exhibits are The Animal Lab, The Speed Exhibit, The Boost Exhibit and The Light Place.
Membership costs: family memberships start at $160
SkyZone Midlothian: Located in Midlothian, this adventure park has trampolines, a full basketball court (it has springs so you jump extra high), a dodge ball arena, and a brand new little kids’ play area, The Little Ninja Zone! It is a large, two level play structure for kids under 48” tall. There’s a ball pit, zip line swing, climbing features and more. It also has an interactive game screen on the floor, a small slide and soft building blocks.
Membership costs: individual passes start at $14.99 per month
The Virginia Museum of History and Culture: Recently renovated, the VMHC tells the story of Virginia. The highlight for families is the Commonwealth Explorers exhibit, a 700 square foot area geared towards children 8 and younger. It has hands-on, interactive stations and opportunities for free play, including a story nook with campfire, mailboxes & post office, a food truck with a kitchen and food, and toys from the past.
Membership costs: family memberships start at $95
*Check here for more.
Locations with outdoor facilities:A membership or gift card to one of these locations would allow you to drop in to play anytime without paying at each visit.
Agecroft Hall & Garden: This 16th century mansion was originally built in Lancashire, England. In 1925 it was dismantled & shipped across the Atlantic. Now in Windsor Farms, Agecroft Hall overlooks the James River and the railroad tracks, and it’s surrounded by intricate gardens. As a part of the RVA Garden Trail, it’s the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic or to explore the beautiful green space.
Membership costs: family memberships start at $50
*Check here for my review.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg: This 422-acre amusement park has rides, attractions & events for thrill seekers & families, including concerts & holiday events. It's about an hour from Richmond, so it is perfect for a day trip or it's really fun during summer break & on holidays.
Membership costs: Starts at $138 per person (includes Water Country & Busch Gardens). Children 3-5 years old can get a Preschool Pass for free, but you need to visit by Memorial Day to activate it. Children under 3 are always free.
*Check here for my review of The Count’s Spooktacular and check here for my review of Christmas Town.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: Lewis Ginter has 50 acres of themed gardens + it’s part of the RVA Garden Trail. We spend a lot of time running on the giant hill, walking the Tree Trail & exploring the Children’s Garden. We got a membership when H was a baby, and this is one of our favorite places to visit. The biggest perks of this membership are free member nights to the annual Garden Fest and the new splash park coming summer of 2023.
Membership costs: family memberships start at $135
Kings Dominion: Open since 1975, this theme park is located in Doswell, about 25 minutes from Richmond. Kings Dominion has 12 world-class coasters, a 20 acre water park, a 14 acre kids’ area, music festivals & seasonal events. You could easily spend a day here & you’d still need more time to explore the entire park!
Membership Costs: Starts at $94 per person (includes Soak City too). Children 3-5 years old can get a Preschool Pass for free, but you need to visit by Memorial Day to activate it. Children under 3 are always free.
Richmond Metro Zoo: Located on 150 acres in Moseley, Richmond Metro Zoo is home to 2,000 animals and 190 different species! Besides walk-in tours, guests can zip line on the Tree Top Zoofari or participate in kids camps. Our favorite part about this zoo is the feeding experiences with the giraffes, barn yard animals and birds.
Membership costs: memberships start at $20 per person. Children under 1 are free.
Locations with classes or open play time: A gift card to one of these locations would allow you to drop in to play or to try one of their classes at a free or reduced cost.
Happy Palette's Art Classes: Located in Henrico, this art studio has classes for 1 year olds to teenagers. Happy Palette offers classes as a single class, as sessions and as pop ups. Children 6 to 15 years old can also participate in Happy Palette‘s open studio time where they have access to art supplies & create whatever they want!
Cost: classes start at $20.
*Click here for my full review.
Launch Trampoline Park: Located in Midlothian, Launch Trampoline Park has wall to wall trampolines, laser time, arcade games, ninja courses and a soft play area for toddlers and babies. Launch also has a cafe with slushies, ice cream, pizza and snack.
Cost: passes start at $17 per visit
*Check here for my review.
Off the Wall: Located in Midlothian, this indoor play space is designed for toddlers through elementary age kiddos. You’ll find playhouses & costumes, toys & games, and inflatables! Off the Wall is such a fun spot to get the wiggles out when you can’t play outside!
Cost: All day passes start at $12 per child.
*Check here for my review.
Swader's Sports Park: Located in Prince George, this sports park is about 30 minutes from Richmond. Swader's Sports Park has outside attractions like go karts, putt putt, driving range + batting cages. It also has an inside play area, arcade, laser tag, bowling & food options! We visited recently on a week day, spending 2 hours playing putt putt, riding go karts & running around the play area.
Cost: prices start at $9, and you can get a reloadable "Playtime Card" to use on all attractions.
*Check here for my review.
River City Roll: This locally owned bowling alley is off Boulevard near the Scott’s Addition breweries. We like River City Roll because it's more than just a bowling alley! While there are bowling lanes & other games, the food is delicious, there's a pet-friendly outdoor space, and they typically have live music on the weekends. If you're a competitive bowler or just like a challenge, River City Roll is one of 8 bowling facilities in the world to have HyperBowl. Reservations are encouraged.
Costs: Lanes start at $15 per house
*Check here for my review.
Uptown Alley Richmond : This is so much more than a spot to bowl! Besides the 38 bowling lanes, Uptown Alley has a restaurant & sports theater, an arcade, billiards and virtual reality arena. They offer daily specials so you could create a family date on a budget or go all out! They also hosts birthday parties & school events.
Costs: lanes start at $35 per hour
*Check here for my review.
VMFA's Childhood Art Classes: The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts offers childhood art classes for children starting at 3 months old. In these classes, children have free play time, story time, a tour of one exhibit, and an art art activity that connects with the exhibit.
Cost: classes start at $18 for a child/parent pair
*Check here for my full review.
For more details on these getaway spots and more Virginia adventures, follow our family on @thewestendmom on Instagram!